An Ahe Christmas
December holidays at Kamoka have never been “Christmassy” in the classic sense, but we created our own traditions that became so, at least to us. Atoll celebrations aren’t easy to arrange -- it takes months of planning to get food and gifts on the supply ship. One year the boat came a few days late so we had to push Christmas forward until it showed up.
Most people on Ahe cut down an ironwood tree, found on a few islets quite far from ours, as a Christmas tree, but we decided to use what we had on our land. We chose a hardy bush called miki miki (Pemphis acidula). Instead of chopping down a whole massive plant, we go out with the kids much like people in colder countries go out in the woods, to find the perfect bushy miki miki bough. Once we cut the “tree” (ideally about 5ft high) off the bush, we stick it in an old cabin biscuit tin filled with coral gravel. Voila, an Ahe Christmas tree.
To decorate our “tree” we collect old shells on the beach and paint or color them before hanging them on the Yuletide miki miki with colorful strings of old pearling cord that have washed up on the beach. We also make a few paper ornaments including a star for the top. We save the really good decorations for the next year but the ornaments rarely make it through more than two seasons.
We also decorate the shells of hermit crabs. These critters are very fashion conscious so we suspect that this is a treat for them too. We collect crabs from the beach then color and decorate their shells with Sharpies. Then we set the crabs free back where we found them. Weeks later, we smile every time we cross paths with our familiar friends.
On Christmas Eve the farm gets decorated with giant coconut palm fronds that we weave around the posts that hold up the farm. We use halved ones to line the rafters and roof edge to create a long, green fringe. Palm frond decorations mean party to island people so this is a tradition that never gets overlooked.
Then everyone gets cooking. Some years we’ve had a pig or a goat, but most years it’s all about fish. The traditional Ahe Christmas fish is Napoleon fish but since “pigs of the sea” (so fatty!) are not always available, yellow fin tuna often fits the bill. We drink champagne, wine and Tahiti Drink (a sort of Mai Tai concoction sold in cartons at supermarkets on Tahiti), hook up the stereo and get dancing. The Ventures Christmas album usually joins the upbeat and very danceable, ukulele-infused local music. Feasting usually happens late since Polynesians like to finish drinking before they eat. Drinking ends when the supply of alcohol does so hang-overs are often cured with tasty left-overs.
Christmas morning we open gifts and stockings. There is always a bit of wonder as to how different items arrived there undetected. We cook again but eat a more simple meal or even just left-over’s, depending on the degree of partying that happened on Christmas Eve.
Whether you are surrounded in snow, coconut trees or somewhere in between, we wish you a Christmas season filled with the love of family and friends.